RE-READ REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name

The first time I read this book, I found myself getting hung up on the minute details of the book rather than focusing on the story, the writing, the beauty of the novel. Having re-read it via the audiobook, read by Armie Hammer, I was able to lose myself to it entirely and drift away into the Italian countryside of the 1980s.

The word choices, the long flowing sentences, that Andre Aciman makes throughout the novel are so heartbreakingly beautiful and make even a child prodigy like Ellio feel like the more relatable boy in the world. His pain is my pain with every time I read this book and I just live for his romance and his suffering. And reading through it is one thing, but the emotion that Armie Hammer puts into his voice while narrating brought me to tears several times throughout. The only narrator who could make it any better would be Timothee Chalamet himself.

I don’t really have much more to say outside of this is one of the most touching love stories I have ever had the joy of partaking in. I have the words of this book on my skin in the author’s own handwriting, and I will cherish them forever. I will cherish this book forever.


Note: Script work tattoo was done at Grim City Tattoo Club by Kristian

REVIEW: The Widow of Pale Harbour

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada and Graydon House for providing me with a copy of the ARC.


Attention all Poe fans! Do I have a book for you!

The Widow of Pale Harbour is the second standalone novel from Hester Fox and follows Gabriel Stone – a man on the run from his past posing as a priest – and Sophronia Carver – a wealthy woman accused of murder and witchcraft – as they navigate their way through the puzzles left by a madman terrorizing Pale Harbour by way of Edgar Allan Poe’s twisted works.

I really enjoyed this topsy turvy mystery novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hester Fox’s latest novel, but it was definitely a lot of fun. The mystery itself was well thought out and even with the limited cast of characters, I still had a hard time cracking the case before the end of the book. It was the right balance between an armchair mystery and a horror-inspired thriller, with the mystery itself being on the gruesome side while very clearly knowing where the line was in terms of the descriptions.

The romance plot wasn’t exactly a slow-burn, but it moved at a good speed as the characters unfolded on the pages. We really get to know Gabriel and his dedication to those he cares for as well as Sophronia and her fear of being hurt (emotionally and physically) by those she thinks she cares for.

This is definitely a great book for the upcoming Halloween season and is a good cozy read for a chilly autumn day. If you’re an older reader who enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco, this would be a title I would certainly recommend.

 

 

REVIEW: Red, White, and Royal Blue

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC of the book.


One of my most anticipated reads of the year and so far my favourite read of the year, Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, follows an enemies to lovers romance plot between the son of the first female President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, and the second born Prince of England, Prince Henry of Wales. While being a romance novel first, the story also tackles some poignant socio-political issues in the US as well as the stagnant traditions of English royalty and is so much more than “a simple romance novel”.

Right from the start I loved Alex. He’s constantly moving, thinking, feeling, and being a hilariously obnoxious little prick and the way he thinks about this just felt so alive. He feels real despite the circumstances of the story. Henry came more to life the further I got into the story but it didn’t take long for him to grow on my either. Even the more secondary main characters like Nora, June, Pez, and Bea feel like good friends with how warmly they’re written.

There was a decent amount of suspension of belief in this one, but it didn’t matter. While it covered the impending doom of the GOP, it still felt hopeful. From a political view (and despite my being very much Canadian), it felt like there was still hope that humanity isn’t all terrible and there are still people fighting the good fight for those who need and deserve a better life than the one the current real-world majority is trying to deny them. There are young people and “adultier” adults who are doing their damnedest to make the world a better place and this book is a reminder of that wrapped up in a queer romance screaming to the world to chose the life you want not the one everyone is tell you to choose.

The sexual content in the book was incredibly well done, giving readers a little more than just a “fade too black” without being too explicit either. And given the content, I was really happy to be reading about characters in their 20s rather than 17- or 18-year-olds like usual. The world needs more queer stories that aren’t about barely legal high schoolers/college freshmen.

While this book may look like it is targeted towards teens, the novel is definitely more of a new adult title in terms of content and even reading level. That being said, this is definitely an important book to read and I would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a hopeful story like this that spares us the violent homophobia that often borders on sympathy/suffering porn I see in a lot of queer stories.

All in all, this is so far my top read of the year and I’m so excited for everyone to bear witness to this wild ride of a political romance.

Books to Read on Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day and, love it or hate it, there’s a lot going on today. I definitely fall into the later category myself. So whether you’re up for romance or in the mood to avoid it at all costs, I’ve come up with a list of books to read for either category.

Bring on the love!

Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite romance/romantic novels to read today.

5. One Day In December by Josie Silver
[ goodreads | review ]
Yeah, okay, this one is more of a yuletide centric book, but the love story crosses over ten years and that’s what makes it a great read for any time of the year. Definitely for fans of Love, Actually and also for those who want a real love story with a feel good ending

4. The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
[ goodreads | review ]
This debut novel is about the difficulties of finding love when you’re both looking and not looking for it. It’s about culture pressure and the important of being yourself no matter what any one else tells you to be. A great read for those looking for a romance novel that’s not 100% about the romance.

3. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
[ goodreads | review ]
Who doesn’t want some f/f contemporary on Valentine’s Day? A story of self-discovery in sexuality with some humor and delightfully witty banter, this is a fun queer read about hard working women who also just want to have fun and be happy.

2. A Date With Darcy (Bookish Boyfriends #1) by Tiffany Schmidt
[ goodreads | review ]
A YA retelling of Pride & Prejudice but with a bit of a twist. Despite having a 15-year-old protagonist, this book is definitely a relatable one to all ages and has strong feminist notes about being more than your partner and remembering that your opinion counts, especially when it involves the word “No.” Fluffy with a hint of drama to keep things interesting, this one caught me by surprise when I read it and loved it to pieces.

1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman 
[ goodreads | review ]
Allow me to scream to the high heavens once again about how the book is almost always better than the movie. This phenomenal novel is a queer romance and a coming of age story all in one. Heartbreaking and beautiful as well, this book takes you to Italy and forces you to feel all of Elio’s vivid emotions to the fullest extent. You can’t go wrong with this book.

Down with Valentine’s Day!

And here are my top 5 books that are very much against this Hallmark Holiday.

5. The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman
[ goodreads ]
This is an incredible look at the birth of the novel Lolita and the very real and very traumatic events that happened to young Sally Horner. Despite how mezmerising and misleading Nabokov’s novel is, Weinman dissects just how horrible men like Frank La Salle (or his fictional counterpart, Humbert Humbert) truly are.

4. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler 
[ goodreads | review ]
An eerie narrative of why eccentric, Min, broke up with her popular boyfriend, Ed. This is a YA novel but written in such a memorably bizarre fashion that almost gives away Handler’s alter ego (as he is more commonly known as Lemony Snicket). A great break-up story with a twist.

3. The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
[ goodreads | review ]
A Tor.com novella of magic and horror that brings out of the dark side of people and what they will do for power when it should belong to no one. Since it is a novella, this is a great book to bang out quickly and so atmospherically pleasing, you’ll completely forget it’s Valentine’s Day in the real world.

2. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
[ goodreads ]
Boarding school + mental illness representation + potentially vampires = this wonderful book that also has f/f undertones. Incredibly spooky (and so much better than the movie adaptation of it), this book is well suited to those who want a creep factor on Valentine’s Day.

1. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
[ goodreads | review ]
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you’ll know I’m obsessed with this series. Want to forget about the real world and bond with someone fiction who also doesn’t care for humans? Murderbot is definitely for you. This novella series is so much fun you won’t want to put it down.


And there you have it! My list of books to read to either join in on or hide from Valentine’s Day. Personally, I plan to spend my evening binge watching some true crime documentaries (for anyone wondering, I’m eyeballing the Paradise Lost trilogy) since I’m not a fan of today.

Do you like Valentine’s Day? What are your plans for tonight? Let me know in the comments!


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The Matchmaker’s List Blog Tour!

dityjorvqaa1mmcSonya Lalli’s debut novel, The Matchmaker’s List, follows Raina as she struggles with the pressures of her family and her culture in regards to getting married. Her best friend is set to be married on Raina’s 30th birthday and with her ex-boyfriend still looming in her mind, Raina is having a hard time handling the stress of her crazy busy investment job on top of all the blind dates her grandmother is setting her up with. I was lucky enough to have a chance to ask Sonya a few questions regarding her amazing book!


Lucien: Congratulations on the North American release of The Matchmaker’s List! Have there been many new experiences between the UK release of The Arrangement back in 2017 and now releasing over here?

 Sonya: Thank you so much! Both experiences have been incredible and I’m so thankful to the wonderful people who have made it happen, and the writing and book bloggers community who have been so supportive. The big difference has been that my book is now being released in my home country. Walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf for the first time was priceless — it was at the WH Smith in Liverpool Street Station, by the way! — but it’s going to be absolutely overwhelming when I go home to Saskatoon and see it on shelves there.

You have such a strong writing voice. Was pursuing writing always a goal of yours?

 That’s really nice of you to say. And I think so, even though it wavered in terms of priority. During law school for example, I don’t think I wrote at all. I actually don’t think I even read anything that wasn’t a textbook.

What drew you to writing romance?

I don’t think I intended to write in a certain genre. Before, I didn’t even think about genre when I wrote. But in retrospect the fact that I ended up here makes perfect sense. I am a complete sucker for romance.

What’s harder, law school or writing a novel?

Writing a novel. One hundred percent. Yes, law school was hard but everything was concrete. You had the text books, the classes, the exams — you knew what you needed to study and when the tests would be scheduled for and what the passing mark was. Writing a novel… everything is up in the air. There is no set path or right or wrong. You just have to go for it, stick at it, and hope for the best.

From Canada to the States to England and back again, which was your favourite city to live in?

Hmmm. I absolutely loved London, but part of the reason I loved it so much was that I knew being there was temporary. So I think my answer is Toronto. It’s diverse and buzzing and vibrant, and it also is where I see myself spending the rest of my life. Saskatoon will always be home to me, but now Toronto is too.

In the novel I loved the comparison of “modern arranged marriage” to online dating and dating apps. When did that idea come to you in terms of explaining how things work?

While I was writing the book. Some of my friends use dating apps where you can be matched with people who are similar to you, and I thought: well, that’s just like if one of their auntie’s set them up with a guy they thought was similar.

You tackle the social issue of coming out to an unwelcoming community. What drew you to that plot line? Have you ever witnessed something so polarizing in your own social/family circle?

A good thing about my culture is the importance of family, but that also means that our choices in that respect — relationships, marriage, children — can be heavily scrutinized. It can be difficult for the older generations especially to come to terms with choices that don’t meet their family values. As the book shows, these values are changing and modernizing, but the process is slow and every family and community is different.

There have been instances in my community where somebody does something ‘different’ for the first time — and it draws attention, sometimes negative attention– but then eventually it stops being a big deal. Often, no one bats an eyelid the next time that same thing happens.

You also get into the sexism issues of more tradition Indian culture. Do you think that sexism is an issue that is getting better or worse?

I think it depends on the family and community. In my experience, yes, it has gotten a lot better. (A tiny example: thirty-five years ago when my mom didn’t give up her maiden name, people talked; when I didn’t change my name after my wedding, nobody cared.) But I can’t speak for everyone. I know that in general we still have a long way to go.

I loved Raina’s friendship with Shay, even when they were fighting. You’ve said that Nani was inspired by your own grandmother. Was Shay drawn from any real-life friendships?

Shay is a composite of a few of the strong, funny, amazing women in my life: my cousin, who is like a sister to me, and a few of my closest friends.

At its core, The Matchmaker’s List seems to be about finding your place in the world. Whether that’s fitting in with expectations or demolishing them entirely. What kind of advice would you give someone struggling with finding themselves?

Thank you. Even though this is a romance, you’re right, it’s also about Raina’s journey to becoming who she is, and respecting herself enough to be in the ‘right’ romance. I can’t remember who said this — it’s probably been said in a number of iterations — but we first need to love and know our true selves before we can allow another person to love us. That’s easier said than done. So I guess I would say don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t try and stick to some timeline.  Believe in yourself and your choices, and you’ll come out the other end stronger.

I’ve got to ask, what’s next for you?

I have another book coming out with Berkley in 2020. It’s not a sequel, but another standalone rom com. I hope there will be more after that. I will continue to work in publishing by day, and write by night!

Thank you, Sonya, for taking the time for the interview. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to your future work and wish you all the best!


And now it’s time for the review!

What I loved about this book was that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I went in looking for a girl going on dates as she’s told to do and finding the perfect guy. Very Hallmark. Cute and simple.

What I got was a story about not just finding love with someone else, but with yourself and your community. It’s about breaking down expectations within Raina and her community as she struggles with her life, as Shay fights against a traditional marriage rituals, as others within their community struggle against homophobic views.

Raina’s character really grows across the year the novel takes place and it was a touching story. Inner strength is powerful, and a lot of us are far stronger than we believe. That’s the reminder The Matchmaker’s List brings to us. Definitely worth picking up under either of it’s publication titles!


I would like to thank Penguin Random House Canada, Berkley Publishing, and Sonya Lalli, herself, for providing me with a copy of this book and for talking the time to allow this blog tour post to happen. 

REVIEW: One Day In December

I don’t often read romance. I find a lot of it cliche, over the top, or just too badly written to hold my attention. I am incredibly picky and because of this I especially don’t read seasonally based romances (or stories in general).

That being said, when several bloggers I look up to picked up the book as well as the Book of the Month Club having it available as one of the December selections, I had to pick up Josie Silver’s One Day In December and see what all the hype was about.

The story follows Laurie and her friend Jack over ten years of friendship as they move around each other in this awkward dance between love and friendship as Jack is involved with Laurie’s best friend, Sarah. Over these ten years, Laurie is plagued by disappointment and loss, while Jack faces his own tragedies.

Right from the get go I loved Laurie. She was funny and real and her struggles with being stuck in dead-end jobs really resonated with where currently am in my life. Her group of friends is wonderful and even Jack felt like one of my own best friends. I enjoyed how the first person narrative shifts between Laurie and Jack so we get to see the man’s side of the story which I’ve never come across in heterosexual romance novels before (not that I’ve read many anyway).

This book made me laugh out loud, it made it cringe in embarrassment, it made me uncomfortable over manipulative behaviour, it made me ugly cry through both the happy parts and the devastating ones. It’s been awhile since an adult novel made me feel this way and I’ve never felt this emotionally connected to a romance novel. But, really, this book is more than just a love story. It’s about how we gain and lose the people we love most in our lives and how interconnected people can be. It’s about believing there’s a right time and a right place to be and having faith in your friends.

This is the perfect book to read when you’re feeling down around the holidays and I’m so happy I took the leap and bought it this season. While some moments were rough for me to get through, I am not lying when I say I want to read this book every December, and remind myself things will be okay if I just keep moving forward. Just like Laurie and Jack.

 

REVIEW: The Little Book Cafe

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the ARC


This collection of Georgia Hill’s The Little Book Cafe trilogy follows the lives of three small-town women as they re-evaluate their relationships, their goals, and their lives in general. When I requested the book through NetGalley, I went into thinking cheesy Hallmark-movie romance, but I got so much more than that.

Tash’s Story

Book one follows Tash, a well-to-do estate agent manager with the perfect job, the perfect house, and the perfect – wealthy – boyfriend. But not all is as it seems as Tash starts to become unsure of her actions as well as Adrian’s. With the help of friends who also take part in charity marathons as well as the new book club, it’s up to Tash to figure out what she really wants.

Tash’s story is one of an abusive relationship as she starts to pick up on the gaslighting and the psychological abuse that comes with being physically intimidated. The way the story unravels and how Tash puts the pieces together is incredibly realistic and I appreciate the way the author approached the subject despite the series being an over-all light-hearted set of stories. I admire Tash as a character and really enjoyed her progression.

I will say though, trigger warnings for domestic and implied animal abuse.

Emma’s Story

Emma’s story was more in line with what I was expecting in terms of over-all tone. She is Tash’s right hand at the real estate agency, but struggling to keep her head above water financially. Her family is struggling, her relationship is suffering, things are not going Emma’s way. When she starts doing something for herself by taking an English Lit course, she thinks she has found something in the teacher.

The conflict in this one is very on brand to “typical romance” archetypes. Emma and Ollie aren’t happy so she looks to her intellectually attractive teacher, Joel. However the main focus of the story is communication is important to let those around you know what you want. Emma’s biggest issue is she feels bored with Ollie as he is so focused on being a volunteer is the small town’s equivalent to the coast guard and wants something new, without telling Ollie any of this.

I like Emma a lot as she represents – to me – the struggling youth who have decent, secure jobs but are still struggling to make ends meet. She represents that the grass isn’t always greener and that other side may only make matters worse when they should be getting better. Communication is key.

Amy’s Story

Amy, manager of the Little Book Cafe and leader of the book club, probably has the most relatable story line. She’s incredibly kind, smart, and talented, but taken for granted by many because she is soft spoken and self-conscious. Her mother picks on her, she doesn’t feel she has many friends, and she was even left at the alter by a man who didn’t even respect her enough to call it off face-to-face. But Amy is in love with a local author and dreads the one-sidedness of it all as she doesn’t want to risk their friendship.

I loved the heartache in this final part of the collection and enjoyed watching Amy slowly begin to believe in herself as she shows everyone in the town what she is capable of doing. Patrick is a wonderful love interest and it was just such a lovely way to close out the trilogy.

Final Thoughts

I really loved this little collection. It was a lot more engaging than I was expecting – in the best of ways – and I definitely plan on reading Georgia Hill’s previous collection that seems to have much of the same cast, Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe, as well as keeping an eye out for her future works. If you want something fun and cozy, I definitely recommend picking up this trilogy all-in-one collection.